National Park Road Trip Guide: Mountain West Edition

    By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

    Explore from the open road to the top of the world.

    The National Park Service Centennial is just around the corner and summer is winding down. That means if you haven’t gotten your summer road trip in yet, it’s time to make it happen! While the parks all over the country are unbelievable, it’s debatable if any region is more impressive that the Mountain West. There is just something special about the feeling you get as you drive the open road and watch the horizon change from flat and open, to rolling foothills, and eventually to staggering mountain peaks. And that can’t compare to the rush you get when you finally get out of the car and hike to the top of one of those mountains. That’s what this road trip guide is all about. Check out some of our community’s favorite adventures in the parks in the Mountain West and start making plans to see them for yourself!

    Rocky Mountain National Park

    7 Incredible Adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park


    Photo: Eric Schuette

    One of our Explorers Eric Schuette calls Colorado home and knows all the must-do’s for your road trip through the Rockies. Check out his adventure recommendations in the park and if you happen to be driving through Denver on your way, he also knows a thing or two about where to find a good beer. Learn more.

    Hike to Nymph, Dream, Emerald, and Haiyaha Lakes


    Photo: Ryan Mckinney

    This 5.5 mile hike leads to four beautiful alpine lakes framed by towering mountain peaks and active glaciers. If you consider yourself an angler and have the time, bring your fishing gear and see if you can snag a trout or two. Learn more.

    Hike to Sky Pond

    At 10 miles, this is a longer hike that makes for a great backpacking trip. You’ll quickly reach Alberta Falls, a beautiful spot although typically more crowded. Continue on to several beautiful lakes for a bit of scrambling and solitude. Learn more.

    Backpack to Lake Verna

    Spend the weekend exploring the quiet side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Bring your fishing gear and keep an eye out for moose. Learn more.

    Pit Stop: Salt Lake City, Utah


    Photo: Lindsay Daniels

    It’s tough to beat Salt Lake’s accessibility to the mountains and there’s plenty of delicious food and drink to fill you up after a day of adventure in the Wasatch Front. Learn more.

    Grand Teton National Park

    Explore Jenny Lake


    Photo: Daniel Brittain

    Is there any better way to break up a road trip than with a quick refreshing dip in a mountain lake? A trip to the Tetons isn’t complete without a day at Jenny Lake. Learn more.

    Hike along the Gros Ventre River

    For a mellow adventure with plenty of potential for wildlife viewing all year long, explore the Gros Ventre river on the border of the park. This is also a fantastic spot for camping. Learn more.

    Backpack Paintrbrush and Cascade Canyons

    This backpacking trip winds through nearly 20 miles of diverse terrain with spectacular views around every corner. Learn more.

    Photograph the Grand Teton at the Snake River Overlook


    Photo: Josh Packer

    If you need a good spot to relax and take in the sunset or sunrise, this is your best bet. If you’re a photographer, this is your chance to get in touch with your inner Ansel Adams. Learn more.

    Trail Run at Schwabacher Landing

    A run along the Snake River at Schwabacher Landing is not only one of the most beautiful trails you’ll ever run, it’s also a great way to work out the stiffness in your legs from a long road trip. Learn more.

    Sunrise Paddle at Oxbow Bend

    Want to catch the sunrise in the company of river otters, beavers, moose, grizzly bears, and all types of waterfowl? Rent a kayak or canoe and spend the morning relaxing with the wildlife and taking in the scenery. Learn more.

    Camp at Colter Bay Campground


    Photo: Ryan Mckinney

    If camping near a private beach and secluded trails sounds up your alley, Colter Bay is the spot for you. It’s also an amazing spot to work on your night photography. Learn more.

    Yellowstone National Park

    Hike above Grand Prismatic Spring


    Photo: Chase Dekker

    It’s tough to appreciate the scale of the world’s third largest hot spring from up close on the boardwalks. For a bird’s eye view, hike to the top of the nearby hill and gain a new appreciation for this gargantuan pool of steaming hot water. Learn more.

    Stand Up Paddle Excursion in Yellowstone National Park

    This SUP backpacking trip takes you where no roads or trails can. You’ll find total solitude and great opportunities for fly-fishing. Learn more.

    Visit Old Faithful

    You can’t visit Yellowstone and not check out Old Faithful. Although the tourist madhouse is a bit much, the eruption is really impressive and a reminder of the power of the Earth. Learn more.

    Camp at Indian Creek Campground at Yellowstone NP


    Photo: Kathleen Buenviaje

    Indian Creek is home to 70 beautiful first-come first-served campsites that aren’t crammed in but actually quite spacious. Generators are also not allowed so you can plan on a peaceful setting. Learn more.

    Capture the Sunset on the Yellowstone River

    The Yellowstone River is one of the most scenic rivers in the country and provides photographers with an amazing location to photograph wildlife. Even if you leave the camera at home, it’s an ideal location to kick back and take in the sunset. Learn more.

    Hike the Wapiti Lake Trail to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone


    Photo: Jon King

    Discover more opportunities for wildlife sightings and incredible views of massive waterfalls and peaceful lakes on this 5 mile hike through Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. Learn more.

    Glacier National Park

    10 Must-Do Adventures in Glacier National Park


    Photo: Noah Couser

    Hike, paddle, and camp your way around one of America’s most impressive landscapes. With such a diversity of adventures to be had, this list is really just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more.

    Hike to Sperry Glacier Basin

    At 19 miles, this is a heck of a day hike. The upside is when you cover that much ground, you hike through a wide range of scenery and of course, since you’re in Glacier National Park, it’s all stunning. Learn more.

    Hike and Climb Mt. Oberlin

    Take in the epic 360 degree view in the company of mountain goats after a relatively easy 4 mile hike to the summit of Mt. Oberlin. Learn more.

    Camp at Many Glacier Campground in Glacier National Park


    Photo: Scott Kranz

    Spend a night in the Many Glacier area at one of Glacier’s very best campgrounds. You’ll be in striking distance to some of the best sights, hikes, and adventures in the park. Learn more.

    Hike to Swiftcurrent Lookout

    You’ll have to earn the on-top-of-the-world feeling that comes with this hike, but it’s well worth the ascent. Don’t let the first few flat miles fool you, the trail gets steep fast as you approach the lookout. But it’s well worth it. Learn more.

    Cover photo: Noah Couser

    Stay energized outdoors with CLIF:

    Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

    Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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